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Ambulance company to begin defense Monday

YOUNGSTOWN — Attorneys representing an ambulance company will begin their case Monday, working to convince a jury the company is not liable for a 2015 murder and attack when its EMTs responded to the scene — but left unknowingly.

Attorney David Engler wrapped up the plaintiff’s case Friday. He presented a video-recorded deposition of Dr. Stan Smith, an economist who testified about the monetary value of a life.

Denise Johnson, 71, was brutally attacked in 2015 by the man who murdered her daughter, Erika Huff, 41, when Johnson came to Huff’s home to help her with what she thought was a medical emergency.

Huff had multiple sclerosis and her medical-alert device was pressed at some point before, during or after Lance Hundley strangled her with the device’s necklace and beat her to death.

Engler and Huff’s family want the ambulance company American Medical Response to be held civilly liable because when a Youngstown dispatcher conveyed information from Guardian Medical Alert to an AMR dispatcher, the AMR dispatcher did not tell emergency medical technicians details about who the medical- alert device belonged to or what her disability was. The EMTs shouldn’t have left until they saw Huff, Engler argues, instead of taking Hundley’s word that Huff was fine and leaving.

Defense attorneys for AMR argue the company is not responsible for what happened — Hundley is. The EMTs did their job by responding and had no right to push Hundley to let them into the house. And, even though the dispatcher didn’t communicate some information to the responders, it did not amount to a willing desire for harm to come to Huff or Johnson, the defense argues.

Hundley, 49, is being held at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, sentenced to death.

Engler said he seeks $8 million for the loss of Huff’s life, $1 million for damages Johnson suffered and $1 million to $2 million in pain and suffering.

If the case is successful and the jury sides with the plaintiffs, the trial will move into the punitive phase.

Engler said the family doesn’t want something like this to happen again and if AMR has to pay a big enough penalty, the company might change its policies or training.

The Mahoning County Common Pleas Court case is being heard before a jury of seven men and three women before visiting Judge Thomas Pokorny.

rfox@tribtoday.com